505 Wild Spiri
"Mercy?" Li Xueyue sharply repeated. She reached down and harshly yanked Lady Ge Beining's jaw up.
Though Lady Ge Beining winced in pain, she could not tear her eyes away from the Crown Princess. Gold and gems glistened off of the Crown Princess's hairpins, a halo of wealth. But her eyes were anything but heavenly. It was a ringlet of fury, a circle of fire, a flame so bright that even the ocean could not put out.
"Would you have shown my child mercy?"
"Would you have shown my maidservant mercy?"
Li Xueyue tossed Lady Ge Beining back onto the ground. Her hair swayed, strands covering her face.
"Would you have shown me mercy?"
Lady Ge Beining could not speak. Her limbs trembled with shock, her eyes wide. Never. She would've never shown anyone mercy—not in this lifetime, not in the next.
Even if it would tear her apart on the inside, she refused to yield. She had already chosen to walk down the darkest of paths. There was no point in looking back or wondering if it was not too late to face the light.
It started with the poisoning of the Imperial Consort with her own hands to get into the Empress's good books. Then it was implicating Lady Xu, who got punished for doing her dirty work, all to harm the Crown Princess. How many people must be hurt for her dreams to come true?
Tears burned in her eyes, but she raised her chin in defiance.
"I would have shown you mercy, for I have the compassion of an Empress, unlike your sinister nature," Lady Ge Beining bit out.
Li Xueyue had never seen anyone so shameless. She always knew Lady Ge Beining's eyes were set on the Crown Prince, but it never crossed her mind that Lady Ge wanted more than that. She was not just eyeing the position beside Yu Zhen as his wife, but the position of power beside his throne.
Li Xueyue could not help but ask, "What is the point of becoming the Empress if you sit upon a throne of skulls?"
Lady Ge Beining narrowed her eyes. It was none of the Crown Princess's business. Even so, she could not help clench her fingers into a fist.
Lady Ge Beining loved the Crown Prince. But she also loved the power that came with the title as his Wangfei. The sky was their limit, and there would be no one that she had to serve. No one that she would have to throw her patience away for.
And finally, her mother's soul would rest in peace.
"And why do you want to become the Empress?" Lady Ge Beining returned. "When everything is handed to you?!"
Li Xueyue's lips parted. All along, all she desired was a simple life, surrounded by the people she loved and cared for. All she wanted was to be by the side of the one person who would love her unconditionally.
Yu Zhen had been there for her through thick and thin—through her nightmares, her terrors, and her tears. Even after witnessing the mountain of issues that she carried with her, Yu Zhen continued offering his hand to her.
Li Xueyue initially did not want to become the Empress, but she knew it was the only way she could keep him in her life. Li Xueyue did not think there was a purpose in her life until she saw the conflicts in Hanjian—until she personally witnessed the cries of the voiceless commoners who suffered.
"Don't pretend to be the victim here. Everything has been handed to you, Lady Ge," Li Xueyue slowly said. "From your pretty dresses, the maidservants, and luxurious lifestyle you lived. You did not work for it."
Lady Ge Beining was immediately offended. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. The Princess knew nothing of her suffering.
"And what do you know?!" Lady Ge cried out. "You were not there when I had my wild spirit forced out of me through discipline and etiquette. You're not the one living in the shadows of her dead mother, you're not the one serving the Empress. You're not the one with blood on her hands for the Empress's sake!"
Li Xueyue was thunderstruck. What was Lady Ge Beining saying?
Immediately, whispers arose. What did Lady Ge mean by blood on her hands? Did the Empress make her favorite lady-in-waiting do something sinister?
"Could it be…"
"Who would've thought the innocent face Lady Ge was actually this evil?"
"Do you think it's murder?"
Lady Ge's face paled. She slapped a hand over her mouth, not believing her wrath had caused her to have a slip of tongue.
"Hah, it seems Lady Ge actually despised Her Benevolent Grace, the Empress all along. Lady Ge's etiquette was taught by the Empress, which is something that every woman dreamed to have...yet Lady Ge makes it seem like a punishment."
Lady Ge trembled in fear. She did not mean to let everything slip out. All of her bottled and pent up emotions had surfaced in the heat of the moment.
Before she could say anything else to defend her honor, a haunting chill crawled down her spine. Her head snapped to the side.
The Empress had set foot into the plaza.
"Y-Your Grace," Lady Ge Beining stuttered out. She rattled her jumbled thoughts for something to say.
It was unlike her to lose her composure like this. It was unlike Lady Ge to not know what to say. She had been trained too much as a child for all of her efforts to fail now.
"I… I…" Lady Ge Beining could not say anything else. She had lost not only her dignity, but also her backer.
If possible, Lady Ge Beining was killed twice in one day. She peered up at the Empress, whose blank expression said everything. The Empress's eyes, which were always cold and stern, were filled with disgust.
"So, this was how you felt about me," the Empress softly said. She had finally managed to get the Crown Prince to step aside.
The Empress had rushed to Lady Ge Beining, abandoning all sorts of etiquette, just to save her. She had already conjured an argument inside of her head, and insults towards the Crown Princess. Her mind was already set on defending Lady Ge.
All of her endeavors went to waste.
"No, Your Grace, that is not what I meant—"
"I know exactly what you meant, Lady Ge."
The Empress was hurt. She had given her all to raise Lady Ge Beining in the life that her mother wanted to live. She had given Lady Ge perfect education, a prestigious lifestyle, powerful acquaintances, and even a proper title. Yet, Lady Ge had the audacity to think of it as a curse, instead of a blessing.
This ungrateful brat.
"Your mother would've been disappointed, Lady Ge," the Empress deadpanned. She too, was disappointed. Everything that the Empress had worked for felt like it was towards nothing.
The Empress had drawn a line.
Lady Ge Beining's mouth dried up. Not more than a few days ago, she was calling the Empress her mother. And the Empress had acknowledged her as a daughter. But now, out of all times, the Empress decided to disown Lady Ge.
"Your Grace…" Lady Ge Beining trailed off, as she struggled to find something to say. It was not like she had deliberately revealed who was killed by the Empress!
Lady Ge Beining had only vented her frustrations. Why was the Empress so petty? Surely, the Empress did not expect anyone not to have any complaints towards her?
The Empress's lips thinned. She could see the lack of understanding in Lady Ge Beining's eyes. Lady Ge still refused to believe she was in the wrong.
"Guards," the Empress sharply said. "It seems Lady Ge has lost her mind. Bring her to the Cold Palace so that she can think clearly."